US farm bill to ignore global food crisis

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 16th May 2008

The US Congress has passed a $290 billion farm bill, which will increase subsidies to US farmers and cut international aid programs.

George Bush has threatened to veto the bill, however, but there is still a good chance it will be passed into law. Interestingly, the presidential candidates response to the bill were contrasting with John McCain critical, Hilary Clinton supportive and Barack Obama labelling it as “far from perfect”.

According to an Associated Press tally less than one per cent of funds will be directed toward foreign food aid, with the country renowned for its patriotism dedicating the bulk of aid to Americans.

Not surprisingly, the bill has been met with condemnation from aid groups and foreign industry groups. Even the US Department of Agriculture has indicated their lack of support, claiming it is a “farm bill in name only”.

“It does not target help for the farmers who really need it, and it increases the size and cost of government while jeopardizing the future of legitimate farm programs by damaging the credibility of farm bills in general,” Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer stated. “At a time of record setting income for farmers, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the country who are not experiencing the boom of the agriculture sector. This bill is loaded with taxpayer funded pet projects at a time when Americans are struggling to buy groceries and afford gas to get to work.”

“Eight months behind schedule, Congress will send a bill to the President that is trade distorting and fails to provide meaningful reform to the adjusted gross income limit, beneficial interest or the international food aid program,” he added.

Raymond Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America, was also strong in his criticism of the bill. “Faced with a mounting food crisis at home and abroad, Congress had the opportunity through the Farm Bill to shift funds from wasteful agricultural subsidies for large scale farms to food aid to meet the needs of the poor,” Mr Offenheiser said. “But instead, Congressional leaders settled on a bill that will continue to be costly to taxpayers, undermine our rural economy, damage our trade relationships, and hurt the world’s poorest farmers.”

The slight decrease in tax credits to ethanol producers (by 5c per gallon) and increased conservation funding were welcomed, although many believe the cuts in tax credits do not go far enough.

With global food prices skyrocketing this year and global fears of a potential food shortage growing, the bill sends a disappointing message from the US to the rest of the world.